Everything You Need To Know About Lip Fillers

If you are considering lip fillers, you’ll probably want to know more about how it works.

Below, we explain this popular cosmetic treatment in more detail — including the procedure itself, the benefits of lip fillers, different types and how long they last for — to help you decide if lip fillers are right for you.  

Read on to find out everything you need to know about lip fillers. 

What are lip fillers? 

Lip fillers are a popular cosmetic treatment for your lips that add volume and shape, making the lips appear fuller and plumper. 

Hyaluronic acid is most common type of dermal filler for this procedure. However, there is a range of other types of fillers that can offer a similarly effective result. These are less popular due to safety reasons.  

In general, lip fillers are safe, quick and results are visible almost immediately. The amount of time lip fillers last can vary depending on the type of filler, with hyaluronic acid fillers like the Juvederm Vycross range usually lasting the longest.  

How do lip fillers work? 

Lip fillers work by adding to the volume and shape of the lips using an injection with a needle or microcannula. The procedure is simple and will not require you to stay with your healthcare provider overnight. You will usually have a conversation with your doctor before the treatment to ensure they understand your requirements and so that you understand the likely results.  

During the procedure

The procedure starts with your doctor using an anaesthetic to numb the lips so that you won’t feel any pain. This local anaesthetic is usually in the form of a numbing cream that contains lidocaine. However, some doctors might also offer an injection like the one used by dentists to numb the mouth.

Once your lips are numb, they will then use a small needle or a microcannula to inject filler into specific areas of the lips depending on the desired outcome. In addition to the body of the lips, this can include the edges of the lips, your cupid’s bow or the corners of your mouth — or all three depending on the desired outcome. Your practitioner should give you a clear idea of which areas they intend to treat ahead of time. The procedure will normally take between 30 minutes and two hours though most treatments take less than 45 minutes.  

Following the procedure

After the procedure, your doctor may use ice to help ease any swelling. They will massage your lips to help the filler disperse to achieve a smooth result and avoid lumps. Your practitioner will then monitor you for around 15 minutes. During this time they are watching for signs of allergy or other side effects and if there is no concern they will let you go! Most reputable clinics will then offer you a follow up appointment usually around 4-6 weeks after treatment to review your results. You should also receive clear instructions on how to contact them before then if you are experiencing any problems or have questions.

Different types of lip fillers

There are two overarching types of lip filler: hyaluronic acid and collagen. Within these categories are a number of different subtypes and brands, all with different advantages.  

Hyaluronic acid dermal fillers

These types of dermal fillers are a synthetic gel comprising a sugar that our skin contains naturally in its basement membrane. This sugar, hyaluronic acid, is what gives the skin its shape and plumpness. These fillers have a long safety record. They are really the only appropriate filler for treatments on the face like lip enhancement. This is because they are temporary and your tissues break them down and absorb them over time. A major benefit is that they are completely reversible using an enzyme called hyaluronidase. This is vital if you are not happy with the results or have any problems.

Juvéderm is the leading brand of hyaluronic acid lip filler. This filler is a smooth one that ensures an even finish. It is one of the oldest and most famous dermal fillers. This brand contains several products for lip enhancement. There is Ultra smile for basic enhancement and the more advanced Volbella that provides a smoother and more natural feeling result.

Belotero is another leading brand of hyaluronic acid filler. For lip enhancement, they have specifically designed two products (Belotero contour and Shape). Belotero fillers are supposed to better integrate with the skin’s tissues. This is to provide a smoother result and reduce lumps.

Restylane is another well known brand of hyaluronic lip filler. It is also used to smooth fine lines and wrinkles and plump the lips.

Collagen dermal fillers

In general, collagen fillers work by improving the skin’s collagen levels and encouraging collagen production, meaning that the results may take longer to become evident compared to hyaluronic fillers. The original collagen fillers were permanent. They are almost never used now due to risks of allergy and long term problems such as scarring. Newer collagen fillers are actually made of synthetic polymers instead of collagen. They are designed to stimulate the lips to make more collagen and hence provide plumping and shaping. 

The two main types of collagen fillers are Bellafill which contains Polymethyl-methacrylate microspheres and Sculptra made from Polylactic acid. They are both injectable treatments. Although they are temporary and absorbable eventually by your body, there is no way to dissolve them sooner. That’s why they are not a common choice for lip fillers nowadays. This is thanks to the popularity of hyaluronic acid fillers which are safer and reversible. 

To find out more about collagen, please read our guide on collagen supplements.

Benefits of lip fillers

There are many benefits to using lip fillers. For lots of people, they can help boost confidence and promote a more positive self-image. 

Lip fillers are considered a very safe treatment, as long as the procedure is done by an experienced medical practitioner, for anyone wanting to enhance the appearance of their lips. Fillers allow the recipient control over the shape and size of their lips. The procedure can also be done in one sitting or if more dramatic results are needed then in stages achieve the desired outcome. Any lumps that happen due to hyaluronic acid fillers are easily dissolvable. There is also low risk of bruising or infection occurring in the hands of a qualified injector.  

Hyaluronic lip fillers are also unlikely to result in an allergic reaction and side effects are rare, making them one of the safest options available. The results are also long-lasting, meaning that you won’t need to get repeat appointments within a short timeframe.  

How long do lip fillers last for? 

Depending on the type of lip filler you receive, the results can last for up to 18 months. Basic fillers like Juvederm ultra smile and Belotero lips last up to 6-8 months. More advanced fillers like Juvederm Volbella may last up to 12-18 months. There aren’t currently any safe permanent types of lip filler. This means you will need to have the treatment repeated once the desired look has started to fade. 

Your doctor will tell you more about how long the lip fillers will last. However, it is important to note that everyone is different. The amount of time it takes for fillers to break down will vary. This is because it also depends on your metabolism and lifestyle. 

At what age can you get lip fillers? 

In the UK, no one under the age of 18 can receive lip fillers for cosmetic reasons. This is even with the permission of a parent or guardian. 

Your doctor will require proof of your age before you can have the procedure. This is to ensure they comply with UK law.  

How often can you get lip fillers? 

You can get lip fillers as often as every six months. Different providers will have different recommendations on when to come in for repeat treatment. Sometimes it will be best to have fillers injected over multiple treatments to obtain the desired look.  

One of the risks of getting fillers too regularly is that it may result in puffiness in and around the face. Your body will naturally remove much of the filler within 6 to 18 months (this may be longer depending on type of filler). However, in some cases filler may remain for much longer. Adding more filler before the original has dissolved can lead to migration, puffiness or an unnatural result. 

It is best to talk to your doctor about the potential risks of getting lip fillers frequently. Ensure you follow their guidance. 

Do lip fillers hurt? 

Lip fillers should not hurt if performed by a qualified and experienced injector. They will numb your lips before the treatment occurs. This means there should be little to no pain during the procedure. You may feel some tightness or discomfort during the procedure, but this is normal and not cause for concern. Your doctor may use ice throughout the procedure and afterwards to minimise unnecessary swelling and bruising. 

You may experience some pain at the site of the injections after the anaesthetic has worn off. This is normal and should not last longer than 24 hours. Any discomfort you experience should be mild. 

If you experience more significant pain, you should contact your doctor immediately for advice.  

Side effects of lip fillers 

Most side effects from hyaluronic acid lip fillers should be mild and usually will resolve within a few days. 

The most common mild side effects include:

  • Minor bleeding from the site of the injections 
  • Redness and tenderness 
  • Swelling and bruising 
  • If you normally get cold sores, they might activate after the procedure 
  • Lumps of asymmetrical lip appearance 

Less common but more serious side effects caused by lip fillers can include:

  • Allergic reaction
  • More serious swelling and bruising 
  • Infection 
  • Necrosis, if the filler is gets into an artery or is compressing blood supply
  • Congestion if the filler is blocking a vein
  • Filler migration, where the filler bleeds into other nearby areas of the face 
  •  Nodules and granuloma

If you notice any signs of serious side effects, you should immediately get in touch with your doctor. Signs of infection include fever, swelling and puss coming from the injection site. Whilst rare, an experienced medical practitioner will be able to manage these. Necrosis occurs due to vascular occlusion. Whilst it is thankfully rare, it should be picked up immediately. Key signs your injector will look for are pain, numbness or change in the colour (dusky or white) or temperature of the lips during the procedure.

There is no way to guarantee that side effects won’t happen. However, you can reduce the risk of serious side effects if see a qualified and experienced medical professional. In the UK, look for a GMC registered doctor or GDC registered dentist for your treatment. 

Lip fillers aftercare 

Most lip filler treatments will heal within 24 to 48 hours after the procedure. Some minor pain or stiffness is common as is a bit of asymmetry and unevenness in the first few days. Any bruising or swelling will usually go down after a week.

You should ensure you follow the aftercare instructions to get the best results from your filler. Staying hydrated is crucial to recovering well. You should avoid strenuous activity and use an ice pack to help bring down any swelling and minimise bruising.  

It is best to eat foods that are soft and easy to eat. Try to avoid disturbing the injection site immediately after treatment. You should also avoid drinking with a straw or smoking. This is because puckering your lips may disturb the injection site in the first few hours after treatment. 

Your doctor will give you comprehensive guidance on what to do and what to avoid after your treatment. Please ensure you follow their advice closely to see the best results.  

We strongly believe that skincare is personal and should always be individualised. Through our virtual skin clinic, our doctors offer safe and effective personalised protocols using treatments like Tretinoin and Hydroquinone where appropriate. We treat skin conditions like acnehyperpigmentationmelasma and skin ageing. Book a virtual consultation with one of our doctors or use our online consultation form today. Your journey towards great skin starts here.

Sources

https://www.webmd.com/beauty/cosmetic-procedures-lip-augmentation

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/22133-lip-fillers#procedure-details

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/botulinum-toxin-and-cosmetic-fillers-for-under-18s/botulinum-toxin-and-cosmetic-fillers-for-under-18s

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cosmetic-procedures/dermal-fillers/

https://cityskinclinic.com/vascular-occlusion-lip-filler/

https://cityskinclinic.com/dissolving-lip-fillers/

Authored by:

Dr Amel Ibrahim
Aesthetic Doctor & Medical Director
BSC (HONS) MBBS MRCS PHD
Founder City Skin Clinic
Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England
Associate Member of British Association of Body Sculpting GMC Registered - 7049611

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